It’s Almost Fall, Y'all, and where I’m from, it’s the time of year we celebrate the birth of a notorious gambler and gunfighter, who’s also a dentist. Surprisingly, I work only a block away from the location of his former dental practice.
Perhaps the complexity of his character is the reason for his lingering appeal. His vibrant personality is rooted in contrast. Doc is critically ill but bold and gallant. He’s a deadly gunslinger and gambler, yet smart, educated, flashy, witty, compassionate, and loyal. Stir in a bit of vulnerability, a touch of vanity, and don’t forget a healthy dose of gallant southern charm to describe this critically ill man.
Born with a cleft palate on August 14, 1851, John. Henry Holliday was fed by his mother with an eyedropper and a spoon.
The baby’s uncle, Dr. John Stiles Holliday, performed surgery, assisted by Dr. Crawford Long, the namesake of the Emory Hospital in Atlanta. The operation may have been the first time in history in which ether was used on an infant. He was schooled at home by his mother, who spent years training him to conquer his speech impediment. She also instilled in him Southern etiquettes, which would forever be part of his demeanor.
Two actors who played Doc Holliday, Stacy Keach, and Jason Robards were also born with the same condition.
Jason Robards played Doc in Hour of the Gun in 1967.
In 1864, his family moved
to Valdosta, Georgia, where his mother suffered from consumption, now known as
tuberculosis, and died when he was fifteen. Three months after his mother’s
death, his father remarried.
John Henry Holliday, age ten.
Holliday attended Valdosta Institute, where he received a classical education, and in 1870, nineteen-year-old Holliday left home to attend the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery. He graduated five months before his twenty-first birthday. He returned to Griffin, Georgia, in 1872 to practice dentistry.John Henry was soon diagnosed with consumption and, in 1873, ended his career as a dentist. Some say he didn’t want his family to see him deteriorate and die from the disease. Others suggest he went west in hopes that the climate would be beneficial to his lungs. Regardless, Doc took the train to the literal end of the railroad line—Dallas, Texas.
Holliday understood the gravity of his disease and most likely considered himself a walking dead man. Though a realist, he remained hopeful for a cure. Doc found comfort in whiskey and gambling.
Texas was full of guns, knives, and violent men, some of whom were suffering from post-traumatic stress from the effects of war. Doc reinvented himself—from a southern gentleman dentist to a dangerous gunman who’d killed more than a dozen men in various altercations.
Holliday traveled from town to town, following the money and gaining a reputation as both a gambler and a gunman. In 1877, Doc was involved in an argument, but he used his walking stick instead of going for his gun. His serious wounds, compounded by worsening tuberculosis, spurred a change of scenery. His next stop was Fort Griffin, where he met Wyatt Earp, who ultimately saved his life.
Earp and Holliday became fast friends. Eventually, Doc would join Earp in the wild boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona. Due to recent silver strikes, the town was flooded with merchants and cash but short on law and order. By the end of 1880, Tombstone was embedded with organized rustlers and thieves called the Cowboys.
Val Kilmer as Doc
alongside Sam Elliott, Kurt Russell, and Bill Paxton as Virgil, Wyatt and
Morgan Earp in 1993.
On October 26, 1881, Tombstone City Marshal Virgil Earp deputized Holliday. Virgil asked Doc to carry his shotgun under his coat, and the four strode down the middle of the street to meet and disarm five members of the Cowboys near the O.K. Corral, which resulted in a thirty-second shootout.
New Release: Featuring another card-playing, cigar-smoking, flashy character, and an unsuspecting bride.
Ace’s Tenacious Bride – Available for Preorder:
Can a spirited
pastor’s daughter up the ante, causing a card-playing, cigar-smoking workaholic
to wager his heart?
Mercy Fairchild, a pastor’s daughter, is ready for adventure. She’ll comply with her late father’s last wish—to obtain the help of a matchmaking service and find her a young pastor out west to marry. Yes, she wants God’s perfect plan for her future, but she hopes it will be an exciting plan. Perhaps a missionary in a new territory?
Widower Ace Caldwell’s unruly children make keeping a housekeeper impossible. The last one left in less than a week! If he could only be as good a father as he is a card player! But with his job as a railroad detective, he can’t be home more than a day or two each week. At least a wife would be legally and morally vested to remain. Wouldn’t she?
About Kimberly Grist:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Kimberly-Grist/e/B07H2NTJ71